The Deranged ‘Struggle’ of Constitutionalism and the Political Syndrome in India: Things to Declutter

Photo by Aashish R Gautam on Unsplash

Often media houses, lawyers and academics use the terms like constitutionalism, constitutional morality, rule of law, oppression and even many other terms that are affiliated in usage with the field of constitutional law (and politics). Most of the presumptions made in the usage of such terms derive around the politics of Europe and the United States. However, considering globalization and the post-2011 situation of the global order, it seems way clear that the politicization of the idea of constitutionalism in India, so to say the least, is highly Americanized, and deranged. This starts with the culmination of some very flawed assumptions and conceptions of what a democracy is and should be. In fact, despite the reality that Atmanirbhar Bharat, which is the clarion call of PM Modi is not protectionism but a pro-globalization plus self-reliance-based India, the pathetic international media in the West assumes it as protectionist. This article is a diligent effort to declutter such misconceptions made by the mainstream politicians, media and academia including the international busybodies.

The derangement struggle that is portrayed by some group of people towards India as a constitutional (and civilizational) state is mostly based on Americanized and Eurocentric ideals of politics and governance. Let us discuss some of these common problems that we seek a lot, and should be decluttered for understanding.

India and ‘Nationalism’

Renowned advocate Gautam Bhatia brilliantly explains ‘civic nationalism’ in one of his YouTube videos, where he stipulates the idea of India as a state, where nationalism is central to secularism and the adherence cum reverence towards the basic law of secular India, i.e., the Indian Constitution, as I paraphrase his explanation of the understanding of the very term according to the Constituent Assembly of India. Now, civic nationalism has a direct and coherent relationship with the genealogy of India’s sovereignty and integrity, which like the 1973 Basic Structure Case stipulates, directly relates to the notions of the liberties and freedoms that India renders — and the quasi-federal system of a secular democracy. Now, what the international media and few academics point out every time they question the current dispensation at the Centre, led by Modi and Shah is the term called Hindu Nationalism as some sort of anti-thesis of civic nationalism. Shashi Tharoor always makes it a point to call Hindutva some antithesis of civic nationalism, which he — pointed out in Off The Cuff as ‘diversity in unity’. However, such a skewed understanding of India as a post-colonial state stems from the fundamental issue of cognitive and ideological dissonance that these ‘intellectuals’ assume, and therefore it is important to see the transformation of the Indian state as the relevant yardstick to the face and structure of Indian Constitutionalism & not the Eurocentric/post-colonial way.

I put forward my reflections of Indian Constitutionalism and its transformation to elucidate further:

Indian Constitutionalism — bears Nehruvian socialism — which is the doctrine of pacifism and altruism in the economic and social spheres of the Indian state, which can be regarded as an extension (indigenized) of the Stalinist means of Communism in the USSR, with its own exceptions that are collateral to the behavioural scheme of the Indian society and its localities. This state of socialism started since the partition but now has dissipated due to the simple reason that the Indian people do not wish to proceed with a publicized notion of Nehruvian socialism of pacifism and altruism — which many argue distorts the notions of Dharma and Karmayog for that matter.

Hindu Nationalism — an extension of Hindutva — is a diverse yet reactionary political ideology, which is not centralized, neither does have any clear ecosystem, unlike Socialism and Communism. It does not even come under conservatism because the economic and social aspects of Hindutva do not even come in any direct similarity with modern conservatism. Hindutva is diverse, and that is owed to the point that there are some people who have diversified the idea of unity (which is neither racial nor territorial). The Savarkar version of Hindutva is just a reflection of the colonial British society and Islamist fundamentalism but does not necessarily work or apply in a direct manner successfully at the first-order like Socialism or Liberalism — because of the fact that the Indian people are diverse in their idea-models towards politics, society and economics, and they do not need to portray it like a dichotomy of monarchs-peasants as it has been for long in Europe and Russia (even China). So, to say that Hindu Nationalism is akin to the far-right conservatism in Europe is not only a pathetic analysis of India as a democracy but also a failure in understanding the Indian worldview. It does not mean there are no such people who cause ideological obscuration, but still — that faction — on both social and economic basis — comes under the term of Hindu Socialism — which began with the JP Movement and was accelerated by Advani. You would be amazed to know that even there is a biography where Yogi Adityanath is being portrayed as a ‘Saffron Socialist’, which is one of the many examples to show how much Hindu Nationalism has matured. Another example is this thread by Sanjeev Sanyal which explains how Indian Nationalism (which was led by Bhagat Singh, Savarkar, Gandhi, Nehru and even rest) was infused with communism. It was the British who started infusing it from the 1930s fearing revolutionary activities:

Considering the current policies of the Indian Government, from JAM Trinity to Ayushman Bharat — it is clear that India is still under the prism of Nehruvian socialism, which is owed to the systemic inequities of the Indian polity and the Constitution that is uneven to liberalism, capitalism and conservatism. Civic nationalism and Hindu Nationalism are not against each other by any means, and should not be sought on the basis of some noisy voices that malign the purpose of both concepts of constitutionalism. Civic nationalism while is important because it gives the Indian people a sense of liberalism (if the elements of socialism are removed) and humanism in approaching the system of law as the guardian of order, Hindu nationalism enables India to maintain its cultural and civilizational past and ethos, which any civilization has the aesthetic (and moral) right to retain. Now, it might be questioned as to why morality matters even in this context. The response to that question will be simple -

Morality can be a pigment of inspiration — but should never be the centre of influence for the values of constitutionalism. The values of constitutionalism are rightful enough to transform, change and even amend its own follies that it did seek in the past, which emanates from its people. Thus, ignoring that — and standing against the attributes of such individuality and collectivity, will never make any sense in any constitutional system.

Power, Ideology and Competence in a Polity

It is very important to discuss and even estimate how come the notions of competence and power are shaped in a democracy because the application of law and the mindset behind is rooted in the notions of power and competence that enable the bureaucrat, minister, advocate, judge or any person in the system to behave accordingly. It affects ordinary citizens too. In the case of India, the story is skewed. I would argue that Nehruvian Socialism is still a part of the Indian Democracy, and its roots are also indebted to the coloniality of the Indian state, which is the British Era so to mention. Not just the laws passed by the British Raj were obsolete, the mindset of constitutionalism and rule of law they passed on to the people in the system still exists today, which hinders India in achieving the cyclical form of a constitutional polity, where accountability and transparency are not just the terms for some clarion calls, but also are deeply related to the idea of constitutionalism & law and order. Fairness and reasonability in a system glue the trust it shares from the people of the country, and that shapes the idea of competency in India.

In fact, there are numerous historical examples that show how India cannot adopt the Eurocentric notions of power as a top-down, ultra-centralized and fear, which is owed to the antique notions of the social contract and Christendom frankly. Competence and power are different, distinct and separated, which India as a democracy accepts, whether is it about the powers of the President in Arts 74–75 of the Indian Constitution or the separation of powers doctrine, which is tacitly applied, giving reasonable autonomy and validity to the system of judiciary. While I believe that the genealogy of the powers of the President of India has not been reasonably achieved, after the Rajendra Prasad Case on the powers of the President (and the notion of Parliamentary Democracy in the Ram Jawaya Case), it is the Prime Minister, who handles the micro-management of the Indian state and government (as we see it under Mr Modi). The Basic Structure Doctrine evolved by the Supreme Court of India despite its backlashes does also portray that competence and power must be separate, which till date is reflective in some landmark judgments passed by the Court, and put forward by DY Chandrachud, J for example, in the recent years. Yes, the system does have a lot of loopholes, in its acts and regulations, from the CRPC to the UAPA and even the Disaster Management Act, which was put into use in the COVID19 pandemic. However, the betterment of the system can be achieved only when the notions of power and competence are kept distinct, different and separate. This — is one of the most important aspects of consonance that both India and the European Union agree upon. It is important that we have informed debates and dialogues on the notions of competence and power, to transform India under the notion of minimum government-maximum governance. Another example that can make Indian quasi-Federalism work is collaborative governance.

Getting on international affairs, because the picture of India’s notions of power and competence are incomplete without the very space of foreign policy, we need some key improvements anyways, which have been slow, but whenever happen, will cause betterment not just to the Indian people, but also to the system of multilateral organizations. India still has to come out of the obscure notions of the Non-Aligned Movement and must transform its outlook of ‘strategic autonomy’ like it has expanded ‘Act East’ and the Indo-US ties. No one can deny that India still relies on the balkanization of the factors of influence around Indo-Pacific and Central Asia, which can be achieved by the US, Russia, Japan, Israel and the European Union member-states. Thus, while we have some transformed the means of engagement with the Pax Americana countries, transforming QUAD should not be just an American responsibility and an Australian necessity. India has to revitalize on its hard power factions in the Navy considering QUAD & declutter its soft power on information warfare and perception politics in order to disrupt the notions of power corruptibility that exist in the fundamentals of political subversion and narrative making. India’s leadership, unlike the Chinese, the British, the Americans and the Eurocentrists, will be a liberal, accountable and strategic one — which even if is slow to be achieved, solidifies India as a constitutional and civilizational polity.

The Aftermath of Derangement

Frankly, assuming that would not make any sense. India’s transformation as a state and civilization is cyclical and takes much time. The notions that make India ideal and reasonable change with time, and there can be no final path to internalize such aims in a prophetic manner. Instead, India’s history and present must be considered a cycle of churning cultures, individuality, liberty, cultural pluralism and honesty in dissecting competence from power — which can ultimately stabilize the role of the ‘Vishwa Guru’ which still is a ‘Vishwa Shishya’ for now.

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